Caesar, the leader of the intelligent ape tribe in director Rupert Wyatt’s 2011 reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise, is an excellent character. He’s smart, funny, caring, and loyal, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The character’s evolution over the course of the movie was the result of Andy Serkis’ on-set performance, but it was already clear from the beginning of the film that Caesar was destined to be more than just a token good guy.
Andy Serkis’ Caesar: Ten Years of ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ (2011) is the first full length feature film about the iconic character that first became a cultural icon in 2011. The film opens where the first two Planet of the Apes movies left off: Caesar and his ape clan are fighting for survival as they evolve into a new society. It follows Caesar as he struggles to keep his clan together as they face the threat of the ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson).
Ten years ago, summer blockbuster audiences were treated to a glimpse into the future of Hollywood. The plot, which focused on the struggles of the human race to survive in an increasingly violent world, was racy, action-packed, and it wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. Cash-grabbing studios may have balked at the challenge, but the result was a cinematic milestone that would go on to be regarded as one of the top 10 films of its year, and one that paved the way for the summer blockbuster.
This month marks 10 years since one of the most popular characters of the past decade made his big screen debut. We witnessed the birth of Andy Serkis’ Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a chimp who was removed from a laboratory to escape being put down after his mother went on a rampage across the institution in an act of defense. For those acquainted with the Planet of the Apes series, this picture presented itself in a rather unusual manner. It was contemporary, set in the present day, and unlike the films before it, it did not use makeup or prosthetics to create the Apes’ appearance. This film is well-known for surprising viewers back in the summer of 2011. After the underwhelming response to Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes, this picture, like the series as a whole, lacked vitality and enthusiasm. The best approach to characterize the film’s development and distribution is to acknowledge that it was up against a significant uphill fight to achieve excellence and public approval.
When I was little, this was one of the movies that I couldn’t get enough of. My father, a huge admirer of the original films from the 1960s and 1970s, suggested we see it on demand a few months after it first came out in cinemas. The rest, as far as I’m concerned, is history. I was really enamored with this film and showed it to all of my friends (and forcing them to get their parents to rent it on VOD when I went over). Many of them, it’s fair to assume, were fascinated with it as well. Was it the film’s unusual narrative, in which we spend the most of the time following a CGI chimp? Was it the last third’s stunning visual effects and spectacular San Francisco bridge set piece? Or was it the way this film (although being quite predictable in its results) presented itself with so many twists and turns? I’d like to think of it as a mix of all of those things, plus more.
Breakthroughs in Visual Effects and an Uphill Battle
Getting this picture greenlit was tough from the start. Aside from persuading the company to invest money in reviving an apparently dormant series, the technology required to make this picture was a major unknown. CGI was used to make the ape figures appear as genuine as possible, which was only feasible because to fast developing technology, as shown in films like The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and Avatar. Rise stood out because it shot these CGI performances on site rather than in a studio with green-screened walls, floors, and items all over the place. This innovation in visual effects technology was made feasible for the first time with this picture, and it has since been utilized in a slew of Hollywood blockbusters, most notably in the two Rise sequels.
Success in the End
For moviegoers, the summer of 2011 was full of delightful surprises. Films like Fast Five, X-Men: First Class, and Rise all had a significant role in reviving previously popular properties at the box office. When Rise premiered in theaters across the globe, it was greeted with immediate praise from both crowds and reviewers. The picture swept the late-summer box office and silenced, or rather, won over, all those who questioned if the film was even required. What made this movie so popular? How did it become so popular that it spawned a trilogy? Caesar is all there is to it.
Caesar, played by Andy Serkis
The character of Caesar is at the heart of this picture, and he sets the tone for the rest of the reboot trilogy. We as an audience form a bond with this chimp from the moment we are introduced to him and his tragic origins, born out of blood in a lab and taken home by the scientist who was using that very lab for testing, watching the montage of him aging, learning to sign, and maneuvering through the kitchen to the jar of cookies. We as an audience buy into the idea that Caesar would ultimately lead a revolt in the film’s third act because of the way we as an audience grow with him. Andy Serkis’ work in this picture is some of the finest he’s ever done in his career for me. While many people refer to Gollum and King Kong as excellent instances of motion-capture performances, Andy Serkis’ Caesar is the film that takes the most risks in motion capture to yet. Caesar is neither a supporting character, nor is he a titular character who appears for just a third of the movie. Caesar is the primary character in this trilogy, and his journey begins beautifully with Rise.
While I am biased when analyzing this film (why would I be writing this post if I didn’t enjoy it?!?! ), I believe it is essential to examine the film’s numerous accomplishments from a more impartial perspective.
The picture stunned viewers and exhibitors across the globe when it grossed $480 million on a $93 million budget. The franchise has been resurrected!
It was responsible for some of the decade’s most innovative visual effects. Thank you very much, WETA!
It gave birth to the BEST TRILOGY OF THE TEN YEARS. Sorry for the inconvenience, Captain.
It provided us with this… this beautiful sight!
Finally, but certainly not least, it brought us Maurice.
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It’s been 10 years since Andy Serkis first played Caesar in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes (ROTA) franchise, and as such it’s as good as time as any to revisit this classic. We compare the first film to the most recent one, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (ROTA), and evaluate how changes in technology and storytelling have affected the franchise, and how ROTA’s powerful messages have helped its legacy.. Read more about planet of the apes 2019 and let us know what you think.
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